Ice-Vibe boots have long been trusted by top eventers like William Fox-Pitt, Oliver Townend and Doug Payne to combine the effects of cooling and massage therapy on a horse’s legs — both to treat injuries like tendon and ligament damage and to combat everyday wear and tear on joints.
While Ice-Vibe boots are ideal for rehabilitating a leg injury, they are also a fantastic tool to promote circulation both before rides (without the cold packs) and after rides (with the cold packs). We all know that cooling legs helps prevent inflammation, but the massaging effect of the boots helps ensure blood flow is not completely restricted, which allows oxygen to reach tired and damaged tissue to promote better recovery.
The boots have gained so much popularity that horse owners started requesting that the manufacturer, Horseware Ireland, expand the Ice-Vibe line to include more products, so that’s exactly what they did. The company recently released Extra Full boots, which are designed for bigger-boned horses and give a better fit on hind legs, as well as hock and knee boots.
I’d seen Ice-Vibe boots used many times but never tried them myself, so Ice-Vibe sent me a pair of the Extra Full boots to try out on my big-boned, 16.2-hand Thoroughbred mare Mia. The thing I love about all of Horseware’s products is that they come in a storage case to aid organization — something that’s always a struggle with my tack trunk — so I’m a big fan of the handy bag that comes with the boots.
Getting started with Ice-Vibe is easy. The ice pack inserts are ready to use after two hours in the freezer, and the boots charge in four hours by plugging the power cord into the slot at the top of the boots. The ice packs are labeled “top” and “bottom,” so it’s easy to make sure you’re inserting them properly. The slit in the ice pack should go over the front of the fetlocks, and the flat side of the vibrating panels should be against the horse’s leg.
The boots have three settings. Setting 1 is a 10-minute cycle that’s designed to introduce your horse to the vibrating of the boots. The Ice-Vibe user guide recommends using only Setting 1 for three days until your horse is fully accustomed. Then you can progress to using Setting 2 or Setting 3 depending on the individual needs of your horse.
Setting 2 is a 20-minute cycle that can be used without the cold packs before rides, with the cold packs after rides and when rehabbing from an injury. Setting 3 is the strongest vibration setting. Also lasting 20 minutes, Setting 3 should only be used with the cold packs and on bigger-boned horses or horses with old injuries and excessive scar tissue.
Since Mia is not currently recovering from an injury (though she is extremely accident prone so I feel like I need to touch wood here) I stuck to using only Setting 2 after we completed our three-day initiation period on Setting 1. I used Setting 2 without the cold packs before rides to promote circulation and prepare her tendons for work, and then I used Setting 2 with the cold packs after rides to reduce any inflammation and increase blood flow.
Mia has your typical wear and tear after racing more than 40 times, and she plays hard in the field with her friends, so I had a good opportunity to see if the Ice-Vibe boots made a noticeable difference in how her legs felt. The puffy spots and bumps I often battle on her legs were definitely improved after using the boots. Click each thermal photograph below to see what happens to the legs when using Ice-Vibe:
Whether your horse is rehabbing from an injury or you want to combat soreness and promote circulation to aid in preventing injuries before they occur, Ice-Vibe boots are a tool every eventer can use. The new Extra-Full boots give more coverage and are easier to use on big-boned horses and on hind legs, and the new hock and knee boots now give the option of using the same therapy on hocks and knees.
And in case you were wondering, yes, the ice packs can do double duty to provide heat therapy! Horseware Ireland advises against placing the packs in the microwave to heat them, as that can cause them to get too hot for your horse. Instead you can soak them in a bucket of warm water, and the packs will retain that temperature nicely. Using the warm packs with the vibrating setting before a ride is a great strategy for a horse that suffers from stiffness under saddle.
Interested in trying Ice-Vibe? You’re in luck! Our awesome sponsor Horseware Ireland is giving away a pair of the knee and hock boots to two lucky EN readers as next week’s Fab Freebie giveaway, so be sure to tune in next Monday and enter to win. Click here to read all about the Ice-Vibe knee and hock boots.
If you’re at Millbrook Horse Trials this weekend, you also have a chance to win Ice-Vibe boots, as Horseware Ireland is raffling a pair at Phillip Dutton and Emma Ford’s joint book signing, which will be held Saturday, Aug. 1 from 6-7 p.m. in the sponsor tent. Phillip is Horseware Ireland’s newest sponsored rider and has used Ice-Vibe boots in his program for many years.
Want to learn more about Ice-Vibe? Check out the FAQs here, read the full user manual here, browse the testimonials here, and view the full line of new products here. Ice-Vibe boots retail starting at $274.99, and you can purchase the full line of Ice-Vibe products, including extra ice packs and vibrating panels, at Dover Saddlery. Click here to find a Horseware retailer near you.
Have you tried Ice-Vibe boots? Let us know your own experience in the comments below.
Disclaimer: Please read the full user manual before trying Ice-Vibe boots. When swelling and bruising is present, always use the boots with cold packs. If your horse’s legs swell after use, that could be a sign of a fracture or infection. If your horse does have a fracture, do not use Ice-Vibe for at least four weeks post injury. If you are unsure, please consult your veterinarian.